Archive for May, 2013

Honestly, these two “issues” have so little impact on my life or my family’s that I feel a little silly even posting about it.  However, I think they are to-dos so telling of the state of our society that I want to weigh in.  Were I to expound to the fullest, I’m afraid I would break the scale, so here’s the skinny (from my POV) on the Abercrombie & Fitch and Disney/Merida hoopla:

Is anyone really surprised at what Mike Jeffries (CEO, Abercrombie & Fitch) said?  I’m not.  I’ve known for years that this is the company’s attitude.  It’s kind of obvious.  I don’t have to boycott A&F, because I would never shop there.  I refuse to pay the price to advertise their brand of “superiority,” and I’ve always felt that way.  Even when I was small enough to wear their clothes, I valued myself and the people around me for more than their (parents’) income or their social standing.  As for the CEO, he might be a jerk, but at least he’s being honest, and he’s not exhibiting an attitude that many people in this country don’t already have.  If they could fit in, they would.  That’s why there was a demand that the company start marketing clothing for larger- (normal-) sized people.  It is disgusting that people have to turn themselves into scarecrows to fit the image, but it’s tragic that they would even want to, that this is how they measure their value.

And that goes for the Merida makeover as well.  What they’ve done to her is sickening.  But it’s just as bad that there’s a market for this type of thing, and that if Merida goes to the shelves in her new form, parents everywhere will still buy her for their own precious little princesses–wouldn’t want anyone traumatized by not having a complete set.  How about this?  Let’s stop setting our daughters up as princesses in the first place.  Let’s help them recognize their own unique beauty and power instead of presenting them with ready-made fictional (or even real) characters to pattern themselves after.  Let’s encourage them to develop their own qualities and characteristics so they don’t spend their lives looking for the next way to brand themselves as superior, or simply acceptable.  Let’s stop trying to create a way for our kids to fit in and just teach them to be good people who value themselves and others intrinsically and not because they belong to a subset labeled by some arbitrary stranger as cool.  And while we’re at it, let’s start expecting the same things of and for ourselves.



Joe Mabel [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Caffe Reggio, photo by Joe Mabel

In April, I blogged on finding a possible link between just the right amount of background noise and getting creative work done.  The restaurant I experimented with worked great (you can read about my experience here) but there are a few problems with this type of setting:  1.  I don’t want to spend the money to hang out in food and drink emporia, 2.  I can’t always get to a coffee shop or some such place, and 3. the sound is great, but the people and the busyness can be very distracting.  I’ve got a place to work; I just need the ambience.  (If you choose to go the coffee shop route, LifeHacker has a handy etiquette guide for working in one.)

As I considered the problem, I stumbled across an article by Alan Henry at LifeHacker on ambient noise and creativity.  He briefly reviews a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research (University of Chicago Press) entitled “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition“.   The study results suggest that moderate noise levels (70 dB) are more conducive to creativity, at least among creative people, than low (50 dB) or high (85 dB) levels.  Turns out there’s some scientific justification for my need for noise.

Perhaps there was something more than sunshine and solitude at work on Walden Pond or amid the green hills of Grasmere.  Nature is a great producer of ambient sound, and that presents me with an alternative to the crowds, travel, and expense.  When the weather is nice, I can open a window or door and enjoy the same type of creativity-enhancing “soundtrack.  But what do I do when the great outdoors are as unavailable as the coffee shop?  Here are some options I”ve discovered:

  • Coffitivity: “Enough noise to work.”  I think there’s more to this site than I’ve discovered.  For now I’m simply enjoying the moderate level of coffee shop noise.  It’s just right.  And it’s free.
  • Chatterblocker: A more expansive product, combining nature, music, and chatter tracks.  It also offers meditation and mindfulness tracks.  The website talks about other potential uses for the product.  I haven’t tried this yet, but it looks interesting.  Cost: $9.99.
  • Ambient-mixer: offers a variety of ambient sound, from the typical nature and human to technical and unreal ambience.  This site also allows you to create your own sound mix “online and for free.”
  • Pandora: Not an ambient sound producer like the others I’ve mentioned, Pandora offers channels such as “Ambient Generation” and “Classical for Studying” that might be useful for background noise.

And when all else fails, hit the shower!  Those flashes of inspiration we get when we’re lathering up may be related to the fact that a shower produces sound at about 70 dB, right in the optimal range.